Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - March 12, 2015

From: Beaumont, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Companion Plants for Texas Mountain Laurel
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I am building a garden from scratch and need help. I want to plant a Texas mountain laurel on each front section of my house in front of a window, and I also want to use Thumbelina Leigh English lavender and some Winter Gem boxwoods or dwarf English boxwoods (which are a foot taller than the Winter Gem). Do I use the lavender as the border or the dwarf boxwood as the border with the lavender behind the boxwoods?

ANSWER:

First, it is great that you are planning to use a Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) in your new garden. Even though they grow quite slowly, they can get tall. So watch how close you are planting it in front of your window if they are low to the ground.  Here are some details from our website. Mescal bean or Texas mountain laurel is an evergreen; usually multi-trunked shrub or small tree ranging from just a few feet tall to more than 30 ft. in height, though its usual height at maturity is 10-15 ft.

Sophora secundiflora is very popular as a native evergreen ornamental tree within its range, valued for its handsome, dark green foliage and lush early spring blooms. It is drought-tolerant, prefers rocky limestone soil, and is native from central Texas west to New Mexico and south to San Luis Potosi in Mexico. Like many woody plants native to rocky soils, it is slow growing. The fragrance of Texas mountain laurel flowers is reminiscent of artificial grape products. Bloom fragrance often compared to artificial grape products like grape Kool-Aid, grape bubble gum, grape soft drinks, etc. A pleasant but almost overpoweringly strong fragrance that can waft a considerable distance from the plant. The brilliant, lacquer red seeds were valued by indigenous people for ornament and ceremonial use; they contain the highly poisonous alkaloid cytisine (or sophorine), a substance related to nicotine and widely cited as a narcotic and hallucinogen.

Now the border plants…

From the Monrovia.com website - Lavandula angustifolia ‘Thumbelina Leigh’

An extremely aromatic and profuse bloomer, this compact selection produces lovely spikes of violet-blue blooms up to three times per year! Shear by one-half after flowering for best repeat show. This versatile, undemanding little shrub is ideal for containers, low borders, and rock gardens. Compact foliage 6-12 inches tall and 12 inches wide. 12-18 inches tall in bloom.

From the Missouri Botanical Garden website - Buxus sinica var. insularis ‘Winter Gem’

‘Winter Gem’ is a Korean boxwood that typically matures to 2-3’ tall and as wide. It is an evergreen shrub that features small, oval-rounded, dark green leaves. Yellowish-green spring flowers are inconspicuous. Synonymous with and sometimes sold in commerce as Buxus microphylla var. japonica ‘Winter Gem’ or Buxus microphylla var. koreana ‘Winter Gem. Best grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, sandy loams with a slightly acidic to slightly alkaline pH in sun-dappled part shade. Tolerant of pruning and shearing. Avoid cultivating around plants because they have shallow roots. Roots appreciate a good mulch (1-2”). Thin plants and remove dead/damaged branches annually to improve air circulation. Carefully remove heavy snow accumulations from plants as quickly as practicable to minimize stem/branch damage.

So to answer your question, plant the Thumbelina Leigh lavender on the outside as it is the shorter plant, then the Winter Gem boxwood (or dwarf boxwoods), then the Texas mountain laurel.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

More Shrubs Questions

Perennials for flowerbed in Texas Panhandle
October 19, 2012 - I have a flowerbed in a partially shaded area and want some perennials. I live in the Texas Panhandle, soil is sandy, loamy. Hardiness zone is 6-B.
view the full question and answer

Drought & Deer Resistant Shrub for Shade in Medina, TX
June 14, 2013 - We are dedicated to native plants in Medina, but are desperate to find a drought and deer resistant shrub for shade. Would we be too far off base with an oleander bush? We know birds and most butterfl...
view the full question and answer

Windbreaks for Monterey County, CA
May 31, 2013 - I am trying to find good wind breakers for Monterey County area, very windy in the valley.
view the full question and answer

Perennial summer blooming plant for Livonia, MI
May 22, 2009 - I want to find a plant that I can cut back in the fall, will come back in the spring, flower throughout the summer, be a medium size plant, no taller than 48", about 36" in diameter. It would get f...
view the full question and answer

Canadian Marine West Coast Plants
December 15, 2011 - What type of plants are found in the Canadian marine west coast climate?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.